How does Christianity remove stones?—God gives provisions (pt 3)
Let’s continue with our discussion about how God removes the stones that lay in people’s path. We have already mentioned that God provides understanding to think rightly about God. We have said that God provides the gift of grace and the gift of unmerited righteousness. We have also stated God provides undeserved justification for the guilty. This leads us to discuss a few more provisions God provides to those who obey the gospel.
e. God provides peace to those who obey the gospel. One of the remarkable and often repeated points of the Bible is the value God places on peace. From all indication God is ginuinely interested people experiencing peace and tranquility in their hearts and minds. This necessary provision is provided by God to those who obey the gospel and place their trust in Him. This is clearly alluded to throughout Scripture. One such passage states the matter like this: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). But what exactly is this peace of God?
Peace, in its broadest meaning, is “the tranquil state of the soul...and is completeness, soundness, wholeness” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 896-897).
Peace is a necessary aspect of human existence to live a flourishing and fulfilling life. When peace is present there is a soundness in the heart and mind. When it is absent there is a stirring and churning that causes anxiety and uneasiness within the heart and mind. When peace is absent the mental disposition of a person is significantly affected. This mental stress can and will affect the physiological body when the absence of peace is significant enough. In recent years there has been an increase on the study of peace in people’s lives at the indidivudal and societal levels. These studies often focus particularly on the detrimental effects when there is an absence of peace. Two such studies can be viewed here and here.
While there may be a certain amount of peace when our physiological and psychological needs are met, this is not the deepest form of peace. The greatest and deepest peace an individual can experience is peace when reconciled to God. In fact, God is actually refered to as “the God of peace” (Romans 15:33). But how do we gain that peace? The peace of God is obtained when an indidivudal turns to God through faith in Jesus Christ, receives God’s forgiven of sins, is justified by God, and deemed innocent as stated in Romans 5:1 (emphsais added): “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God provides the gift of peace just as he provides for any other necessary provision. As we end our discussion on peace, consider the following statements.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 ESV).
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33 ESV).
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ESV).
e. God provides reconciliation to those who obey the gospel. God also provides reconciliation with those who place their faith and trust in him. When using the word reconciled, we are simply saying that when we come to God through Christ, God establishes a new relationship with us through his Son. Of course, if reconciliation means a relationship with God, the absence of reconciliation means alienation. Consider the following two biblical descriptions and notice how the New Testament views an individual’s condition before reconciliation and after reconciliation (italics added).
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13 ESV).
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11 ESV).
Reconciliation with God brings us into God’s family and with it all the promises and blessings that accompany the relationship. We become the recipients of all the provisions of God, including everlasting life.
f. God provides joy those who obey the gospel. Contrary to what people may have say, being reconciled to God brings joy to the heart. Some claim that obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ is a burden and a hindrance to human freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, God provides a joy within the heart that no other thing can produce—not money, not success, not notoriety, and not a relationship with another person. They all fall short to the joy that comes from knowing God. The joy that God provides is a lasting joy that extends beyond the circumstances of life and its greatest source is God himself.
The gospel accounts report that Jesus often discussed personal joy. His words reveal his interest in the joy his followers would experience. Take for example the following statement: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 ESV). Paul too had much to say on joy. Just as an example, in his letter to the Romans Paul expressed his hope that “... the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…” (Romans 15:13 ESV). Peter too explains that for believers who obey the gospel, there is a joy that is inexpressible given to them: “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV).
This joy is a provision from God to those who obey the gospel.
g. God provides salvation to those who obey the gospel. The word salvation is a broad term whose roots convey the meaning of deliverance and feedom. This is a bit of an oversimplification of the term, nevertheless, it is accurate. The New Testament understanding of salvation in its most simplistic understanding, means to be saved. Therefore, those who obey the gospel are saved from the consequences of their personal sins. Those consequences include the eventual judgement of God on sinners, the condemenation of sinners that follows judgement, and the eternal penalty of sin assigned to sinners.
Christ’s cruxifiction was the payment and the satisfation for sin which God’s holiness requires. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross redeemed man, that is, purchased mankind from the consequences of sin on God’s behalf, and made it possible for believers to be saved. Paul states it like this: “In him we have redemption [purchase] through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7 ESV).
Therefore, believers are saved from the wrath of God: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18 ESV). “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9 ESV).
Believers are saved from the condemnation of God: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV). “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17 ESV).
Believers are saved from death...and granted life in Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).
Believers are saved from being an enemy of God: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10 ESV).
This explanation of salvation is far too simple to convey the depths of its meaning. Yet, salvation, simply said, is God saving those who obey the gospel. They are saved from condemnation, from judgement, and from wrath. God gives salvation and life, in this present life and in the eternal future.
h. God provides inner unction to those who obey the gospel. As we conclude our discussion on the provisions of God, there is another important point I would like to mention.
One of the remarkable expressions of the New Testament is that God actually provides an inward love for Him to those who obey the gospel—an indispensible necessity. Not only does God want us to turn to him, he also desires we love him. In order to make this possible, God provides an inner unction, or impetus if you like, within believers through the Holy Spirit. This is particularly important because there is always a strong and influencing inner drive within every person towards sin—a love to embrace and act on sin. Coupled with this natural inner drive is an external plethora of things and such that beckon to us and vie for our love and attention. If God did not provide assistance and an inner unction for us to love him, believers would be overwhelmed by the strength of these self-centered drives—internal and external. Consider just two passages regarding this matter.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV).
“...hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
Finally... God provides all that is necessary for anyone to turn to him and obey the gospel. God’s provisions make possible for anyone to turn to him and place their faith in his saving grace through Jesus Christ. No stone in the path, no impediment, no barrier, no obstacle, and no encumbrance is greater than his provisions. No one need stumble at the gospel and the truth of God.
And yet…people do stumble. People stumble over the impediments and stones. People also stumble over the stone of the gospel.
Let’s continue our discussion as we explain how the gospel is a stumbling block to some.To next section Homepage